As we look ahead to 2019, the momentum that built through 2018 in Bahrain’s manufacturing and logistics sector continues to grow.
In 2018 Bahrain attracted $830m in foreign direct investment and Bahrain’s manufacturing and logistics sector has attracted a total of $184m from more than 10 different international companies, leading to the creation of 875 new jobs.
Last April Mondelēz opened its 6th global mega-plant in Bahrain – a ‘Factory of the Future’ the size of 30 football fields. In May, Italian water heater maker Ariston Thermo launched its first plant in the MENA region here in the Kingdom, bringing with it highly skilled job opportunities. In the same week, coinciding with Bahrain’s major investment forum Gateway Gulf, Power Root, the Malaysian coffee maker, announced that it is making Bahrain its regional base. As the rest of the year unfolded, other companies followed suit, joining some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Reckitt Benckiser and Olayan Kimberly-Clark in making Bahrain a major manufacturing and logistics hub.
And now, we are starting the year with Agility, one of the world’s largest integrated logistics providers, announcing that it is establishing a major logistics centre that will serve as the official inauguration of their newest regional logistics hub here in the kingdom.
As more and more manufacturing and logistics leaders focus on the MENA opportunity, attracted by a growing regional population driving greater demand, they naturally weigh up a number of factors as they select a base for their operations. They think about the relative cost of doing business, the regulatory frameworks, the depth and quality of human capital, the strength of the connectivity and networks that will provide the access they need, and they think about the mindset and approach that each prospective partner country brings to the table.
In Bahrain, we have strong advantages when it comes to meeting the demands of today’s manufacturing and logistics businesses. We have the lowest set-up and operating costs of any country in the GCC – up to 30-40 per cent lower than neighbours in the region. We have a stable and forward-thinking regulatory environment and a young and dynamic, highly educated population. Equally, we have the most efficient processing of trade goods with the shortest travel time between seaport, airport and logistics processing zones, and a strong infrastructure investment programme.
But we also feel that while those advantages set us apart, they alone are not enough. We believe our real strength is the coordinated, agile and action-oriented way we partner with businesses to help them meet their objectives. We call this the ‘Team Bahrain’ approach, and we feel it’s a different kind of mindset – one that understands the pace of modern business and actively encourages a dialogue between investors and policy-makers.
A highlight of the Team Bahrain approach, since Mondelēz established its base here in Bahrain, we have worked with them to reduce the transit time from their Bahrain factory to the KSA market by 70 per cent – a remarkable achievement in a short time. It’s a testament to the Team Bahrain approach. As more firms capitalise on the regional opportunity emerging in the GCC, we look forward to working closely with the world’s most exciting businesses to exceed their expectations through 2019.